Tennis is a sport for life, and that caters to never letting the game go. Yet, one of the most important questions a player must ask him or herself is: What will I do after I’m done playing?
Many players have remained engaged with the game while still pursuing another career. Look at Andy Roddick: After retiring in 2012, he returned to the court in exhibitions and PowerShares Series events, much like fellow pros Jim Courier, Tim Henman, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras. Roddick is also a partial owner of Mylan World Team Tennis and provides sports analysis with Fox Sports and the BBC. This week, he’s returning to the tour to play doubles in Atlanta with Mardy Fish, who will himself be retiring after the U.S. Open.
Like Roddick, a number of former pros have headed to the commentary booth, where their playing experience is invaluable. We hear from John McEnroe and Chris Evert over the airwaves, along with Justin Gimelstob and Lindsay Davenport, who simultaneously coach. In recent years, the lure of coaching has attracted some familiar faces, including Amelie Mauresmo, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang, among others. Then there are those who start academies (Taylor Dent, Tim Mayotte, and Edberg), become tournament directors (Richard Krajicek, Michael Stich, Kim Clijsters), and help the tours (Gimelstob—he’s everywhere). A few chase new careers outside the game, in business (Brendan Evans), education (Agassi), and fashion (Marion Bartoli…and eventually Venus Williams?). Yevgeny Kafelinkov even got into high-stakes poker. But for the most part, former players remain involved in tennis.
But the best examples of tennis addiction may be the players who’ve chosen to come out of retirement—sometimes even twice—in order to compete again. Martina Navratilova retired on two separate occasions, finally calling it quits for good at the age of 49. Similarly, Martina Hingis retired in 2002 and 2007. Today she’s back on top of the doubles ranks.
At the very core of it, everyone that plays competitive tennis feels that they’ll probably never be as good at something else as they are at…tennis. It’s hard to let go, and even harder to find a substitute for the competition, adrenaline, and passion. Monica Seles discovered that skydiving gave her that familiar rush—it’s an elusive sensation.
Throughout my college career at UCLA, I knew I wouldn’t turn pro after graduating. I had to find another career—another identity, even. Every year, there was a sense of panic amongst the senior players, feeling at a loss for what to do next and getting emotional missing the sport you’ve grown with for your whole life. It’s a lot like a breakup with a significant other. You have regrets, and you also have some of your greatest memories. But at some stage, you have to move on.
You can see what I decided to do next—it was a natural transition to go from playing the game to writing about it. A few of my teammates work in hotel management, accounting, and law, but the vast majority work in tennis-related jobs. It doesn’t feel like a copout staying within the sport, it feels like the most obvious decision. Who better to continue growing the sport than the ones that played it?
Follow Nina on Twitter @ninapantic1.